Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked if we knew of any places in the United States that are gridlock-free. I live in Augusta, Maine, which has about 21,000 people. One of the main drags into the city, Western Avenue, is supposed to be a traffic nightmare. I'm always hearing people complain about the "massive tie-ups" and "dreadful traffic" on the avenue.

Perhaps the reason I've never noticed this is that I moved here from Northern Virginia.

Lesson: People will complain no matter where they live.

J. PHELAN

Augusta, Maine

Smooth Sailing in the Southwest

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I nominate Raton, N.M., as a gridlock-free town. It's about 120 miles south of Colorado Springs.

It is at 4,800 feet elevation, which gives it absolutely gorgeous night skies. You feel you can reach out and pick a star from the sky.

I was there on business a number of years ago. The worst traffic jam involved three cars on Interstate 25 when several antelope decided to run across the road.

M.R. IRWIN

Fairfax County

Hassle-Free Trips in Indianapolis

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

One of the reasons I moved from Northern Virginia to Indianapolis was to escape gridlock. Here, you get into your car, drive to your destination, park and you're done. It's that easy.

Jealous, aren't you?

RICK DEL VECCHIO

Indianapolis

No Gridlock on Northern Neck

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I know of a place that has no gridlock: Northumberland County, Va., about three hours from the Beltway, located on the lower tip of Virginia's Northern Neck. There isn't a traffic light in the whole county.

About five or six years ago, there was a big to-do about an intersection that had a half-dozen or so accidents. A traffic light was proposed. But the old-timers prevailed and solved the problem by moving one of the roads.

The county is populated by watermen, farmers, retirees and weekenders who populate the ubiquitous waterways. The closest thing to a traffic jam I saw in the nine years I lived there was between 9 and 10 a.m. at the post office in Burgess--the postmistress put the day's mail out about 9:15 a.m.

JIM FEARSON

Fairfax County

Dr. Gridlock has been to the Northern Neck: boated on the Wicomico River, dined at Windmill Point, the Tides Inn and that family restaurant in Tappahannock that has the antiques inside, and visited George Washington's birthplace. This is surely another world, very quiet and still within an easy day's drive of our metropolitan area.

I hear more and more of us talking about it, which may mean the locals in Northumberland County and environs better start planning a Beltway.

Dr. Gridlock remains interested in your nominations of gridlock-free places to live. Things are not going to get any better here. We have to have some hope.

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column. Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday in Prince William Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at drgridlock@washpost.com. The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.